Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

About the PNAS Member Editor
Name Anderson, Kathryn V.
Location Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
Primary Field Genetics
Secondary Field Cellular and Developmental Biology
 Election Citation
Anderson is a biologist who has made enormous contributions to understanding what signals are sent and received by cells and what proteins are needed to control animal development. More specifically, her work has revealed the ancient molecular mechanisms used to produce dorsal-ventral patterning in fruit flies, determining what tissues develop where. In humans, the same machinery is instead used to establish our innate immune response.
 Research Interests
I am interested in understanding how the body plans of animals are established during development. We have used a combination of genetics and microinjection of RNAs and proteins to identify and characterize the proteins that direct axis determination and cell-type specification. Much of my career has focused on understanding the establishment of asymmetry in the early Drosophila embryo. We found that the Toll gene encodes a transmembrane protein that controls dorsal-ventral patterning of the Drosophila embryo. Toll is activated only on the ventral side of the embryo as a consequence of localized proteolytic processing of its ligand, the Spatzle protein. Localized processing of Spatzle in turn depends on the activity of a series of extracellular serine proteases. The Toll pathway has an evolutionary conserved function in innate immune responses, although apparently not in early development. We have used Drosophila genetics to identify more of the genes that are important in innate responses to infection. Recently we have applied classical genetic approaches to the early development of the mouse embryo. We have identified genes that control early neural and mesodermal patterning and are working to define genetic pathways that specify the mammalian body plan.

 
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